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Report: Cameron Smith Joined by Harold Varner III, More Golfers in LIV Tour Move

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 27, 2022

Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

The PGA Tour exodus continues.

According to Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel, Cameron Smith, Mito Pereira, Marc Leishman, Harold Varner III, Cameron Tringale and Joaquin Niemann will reportedly join the Saudi-backed league next week.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach also reported that Anirban Lahiri was expected to make the switch next week.

Smith, 29, has been one of the breakout stars of the 2022 PGA Tour season, winning the Open Championship and PLAYERS Championship this year alone. He's posted three total wins in 2022.

When asked by reporters in the past if he was considering a switch to the highly controversial LIV Golf—Saudi Arabia has been accused of using its Public Investment Fund to buy ownership of soccer club Newcastle and to start LIV Golf as a means to sportswash its human rights violations—Smith declined to commit to such a move.

"I have no comment to that," he said two weeks ago in Memphis. "I'm here to play the FedExCup Playoffs. That's been my focus the last week and a half, that's what I'm here to do."

On Thursday, Rory McIlroy told reporters at the East Lake Golf Club that he had previously spoken to Smith about the future of the PGA Tour

"I was in London and Cam was at home in Florida, and so I gave him a call," he said. "I just wanted to tell him what was in the pipeline in terms of these changes to the PGA Tour's schedule. Regardless of the decision he makes, I wanted him to have all the information."

Those changes included 12 "elevated" events in 2023 that will have prize pools ranging from $15-20 million—in addition to lucrative events like the majors and the PLAYERS Championship—and players being allowed to choose the three other events they desire to participate in, for a seasonal schedule of 20 overall tournaments, at minimum.

The elevated tournaments will include the three FedEx Cup playoff events, the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC-Dell Match Play and the Memorial.

Those changes reportedly came at the behest of players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele, who held a PGA Tour players-only meeting and outlined what they wanted to see from the Tour amidst all of the LIV defections.

"It was a really nice meeting. It was great. It was exciting. It was new. It was fresh," Schauffele told reporters, though none of the players involved revealed many details of the meeting. "Coming up with other adjectives here, yeah, I am very hopeful with sort of what's to come, I should say."

But it apparently wasn't enough to sway players like Smith, who reportedly is set to join other big names like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Ian Poulter, Talor Gooch, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood, among others, in defecting to LIV Golf.

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